I’ve always had an inexplicable attraction to bald men, and it turns out I’m not alone. In fact, I asked women who like bald men why they do, too, and they couldn’t explain it either. Most said something along the lines of, “I don’t know. It’s just something about them.”
A 2012 study from the University of Pennsylvania might point to that elusive je ne sais quoi. Research by Dr. Alfred E. Mannes provided “consistent evidence that a shaved scalp is associated with dominance.” What was most interesting about this study was that the perceptions of power, masculinity and dominance specifically applied to a fully-shaved scalp. Male-pattern baldness did not fair so well, as those men were viewed as the oldest and least attractive. This led Mannes to conclude:
Instead of spending billions each year trying to reverse or cure their hair loss, the counterintuitive prescription of this research to men experiencing male pattern baldness is to shave their heads…Accordingly, these men might better improve their well-being by finishing what Mother Nature has started.
I asked some men about their bald experience and received two types of stories: 1) Those from fully-shaved men who decided not to be victims of fate. They sounded proud of their bald heads and empowered. 2) Men who lamented losing their hair. They almost always mentioned that they had typical male-pattern baldness. These stories made me sad. It’s not a study, but it seems in line with the research.
After hearing from dozens of bald men and the women who love them, a few more reasons—besides the Mannes theory that a bald head signals dominance—emerged.
Many bald men have swagger. Period. I believe that swagger correlates with the inevitable moment when they accept their fate and start giving zero fucks. One man said, “Personally it wouldn’t matter if everyone disliked it. I’m used to it, and I like it. It’s here to stay.”
There was one through-line in all of the emails I received from men: a profound experience of loss, a death of a part of themselves. Their experience of losing their hair closely paralleled the Seven Stages of Grief people experience with the death of a loved one.
Often the men tried everything. One man shared, “Doctors couldn’t do anything for me, and I opted not to go with a toupee. I wore hats regularly for about four years after graduating high school, and then I just accepted things and quit trying to hide my head.”
Loss changes you, but in coming to terms with that loss you are forced into acceptance. Learning at a young age to be exactly who you are and own that is one of the most powerful lessons you can learn. Many of us never get it. Bald guys are given the gift of self-acceptance at a young age.
Inside a confident bald man is a young man (or in many cases a teen) who was once balding. That process is usually filled with anxiety and self-consciousness. It’s life-changing to lose your hair, and most of the men who shared their stories with me lost it pretty young.
One man said after he first started “shedding like a dog” that “the next several months were more difficult at school for me socially. I looked like a mid-20s student all the while not being able to legally buy beer.” They understand embarrassment. One woman who wrote me said, “I like bald guys because I feel self-conscious or fat or ugly or whatever a lot of the time, and I feel like he really gets it in a way most men don’t. He isn’t dismissive. He’s reassuring.”
One of the reoccurring themes from bald men was: “It weeds out superficial encounters with women.” Women said they find bald men to be less shallow, too. My friend Ashley said, “I only date bald men because they generally lack the vanity men with hair seem to have. I don’t want to date a guy who spends more time looking in the mirror fiddling with his hair than I do. And bald men are much better at seeing beyond my exterior and more interested in getting to know the person inside.”
It may just be a coincidence, but 29/30 men who emailed me mentioned they were married. I consulted Playboy Hard Science columnist Justin Lehmiller and asked him if there were any studies on attractiveness and bald men.
He pointed out a 1996 Muscarella and Cunningham study. Lehmiller said, “Basically, what they found was that, overall, women find bald men to be less attractive than men who have hair. However, it’s not necessarily all bad for bald guys. Women see them as being more mature and less aggressive. This suggests that bald men might appear more desirable to women who are looking for a guy who wants to settle down. In short, baldness may be perceived as more attractive to some women than others because it conveys the psychological traits that they’re looking for in a partner.” Stability. Masculinity. My baldmania is starting to make a lot more sense.
People often think bald men are older than they are–until they get old, and then they think they’re younger. It’s a blessing that works both ways. One wrote, “When I was in our school musical my senior year I heard some audience members thought I was one of the teachers, not a student.” Many a bald college student has been mistaken for a professor. Another common story: “I soon became the go-to beer run guy because I rarely got carded.” OK, being mistaken for the prof sounds like a drag, but: 1.) Some women have a thing for older guys. 2.) On a campus full of unkempt hair under baseball caps, the bald guy stands out.
Vin Diesel, The Rock, Jason Statham, LL Cool J, Michael Jordan, the list goes on and on and on. We associate baldness with the military, action stars and professional athletes. You know–heroes. Yet pop culture tends to equate baldness with badness, in terms of TV and movie characters. Still, there’s something sexy about a bad guy. Take Putin, for example. Hate everything he stands for. Would totally bang.
I love this story: “I remember the first day I shaved in college. I went to my next class where a professor did not allow any hats. So being on the front row I had no chance to refuse or hide. He stopped class looked at me and said, ‘Good for you, I’m glad you have the right shaped head for that,’ a thought that had never crossed my mind until after I was shaven up top. He later revealed to me that he had a huge comb-over and wished he had the courage to shave.” Over and over men shared the experience of their “take-the-plunge” moment when they fully embraced their baldness, shaved their head and never went back.
There is something classic about the fully-shaved head. These guys are beyond the lame looks that plague male hairstyles. The Macklemore undercut. The dude who spends an hour using product to make it look like he just woke up. The man-bun. There is a sexiness to fully owning a look and not chasing the latest trend.
So if you’re going bald, and you have any doubt, SHAVE IT.
Watch Bridget talk to comedian Ken Garr about “How Balding In Your 20s Can Be Sexy” on Just The Tips Live.
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